IALHI

International Association of Labour History Institutions

XXX Conference, Amsterdam, 1999 Speeches and Presentations

Regine Schoch, Online Edition of European Socialist Parties and Trade Union Manifestos

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to present to you today the result of a project that was initiated last year at the IALHI-Conference.

The project I will talk about, is an Online Edition of programmatic documents published by all socialist or social democratic parties in Europe and the programmes of all European trade union umbrella organisations. These documents are now made searchable and available in fulltext via a single Internet address. This source edition shall support those who have a critical look at the programmes of the parties of the Socialist International and the programmes of the members of the European Trade Union Confederation.

You can see on the screen the start page of the Online Edition, which contains a short project summary in the introduction as well as a search form. This search form enables users to search for individual documents.
This Online Edition of labour party and trade union programmes covers all member parties of the Socialist International as well as all members of the European Trade Union Confederation. From both groups members with observative and consultative status have been included, there are for instance a number of states in Central Eastern and Eastern Europe. We are particularly interested in having them represented in this project, since their unique democratic transformation processes at the close of this century are so remarkable.

When you click on "country" on the search form, a list of European countries will be displayed. An individual country may be chosen by highlighting and clicking again. This will call up a list of short titles, which lists all documents published by the trade union umbrella organisations and the SI parties in this specific country. To be more precise, I must say, the list contains all the documents which we have found so far for this project. If you click on one of the short titles, the complete text of the relevant document will be displayed in fulltext.

Alternatively, you may want to search for individual parties or trade union organisations in order to gain to access their programmes and position papers. It is also possible to conduct searches by entering specific keywords in the search form.

If you do not find your country represented here, then we have not yet been able to reach and digitalise relevant documents. In this case, please do contact me after this presentation. I look forward to discussing ways in which we could close these gaps in our Online Edition.

Let us now go to the example of Hungary, which is well-placed to illustrate our decision concerning the languages chosen for this project. As you can see, there are both English and Hungarian-language documents. We have usually given preference to English-language documents, whenever these were available. If this was not the case, we have included documents in the original language. Unfortunately English translations of a large number of documents were not available, therefore you will find that this Online Edition contains documents in all European languages.

Our experience with Russian text recognition software, by the way, was an extremely positive one. We have already digitalised Greek and Turkish documents by scanning them in, but we have been unable to process these texts for lack of a proof readers. Nevertheless, it would be preferable if for such an international project, the majority of documents were in English. The Friedrich Ebert Foundation is at present considering plans to have documents translated into English. However, apart from the unsolved question about funding, this also raises intellectual property issues.

Let me say some words to this problem: the intellectual property rights of online editions: While for graphics and digital images, intellectual property rights have more or less been clarified and are safeguarded by strict controls, the digitalisation of texts for online publication is still a grey area. The European Union draft directive, called : "Draft Directive on the Harmonisation of Certain Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights in the Information Society", has only had its first reading. It will be considerable time until it is approved by the European Parliament.

In view of these unsolved property right issues, we have agreed on the following procedure: as a matter of principle, we have not included images in the digital edition. Only the actual texts have been scanned in. At the same time we wrote to all organisations concerned, asking them to fill in the attached acceptance form to confirm that they approved the online publication of their documents via the Internet Site of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

As is often the case with such mailing exercises, the feedback was slightly disappointing with rates of around 50%. We have taken outstanding responses as agreements. In only two cases, we were explicitly asked not to publicise texts, i.e. in the case of the Confédération Générale du Travail, the French trade union, and the Confederation Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori, the Italian trade union.

Allow me now to make a few remarks about the nature of this project. Which texts have been chosen for this Online Edition? And what types of text are available online? I do not want to bore you with detailed definitions and classifications of party and trade union manifestos. It is indeed not possible to give a definition. Instead, I would like to give you a brief account of my personal learning process with the selection of programmatic documents from relevant organisations.

Being a German librarian, I had initially expected to find well-structured programmes with numbered sections from point one to point . Reality however soon forced me to reconsider my unrealistic expectations. In my experience so far, Switzerland appears to be the only country in which reality seems to correspond with the expectations of a German librarian.

Generally I will say, we have always opted for the latest edition of a party manifesto, no matter whether it comprised a hundred or only five pages.

Another example, United Kingdom, we were asked to stick as near as possible to a glossy party brochure. However, since we had decided against the use of images or photographs, less than ten pages of text were left.

In the case of trade union organisations it was even more difficult to identify proper manifestos. We have normally used the latest trade union congress report as a programmatic document, since these usually contain general political resolutions. Luckily enough, at the end of the 20th Century, many organisations - including trade unions - take the opportunity to review their programmes. There was and is such a large number of trade union conferences dedicated to the strategies for the new Millennium.

Here an example (Estonia) for a trade union programme to show which types of text we have included, when manifestos were not available or in this case, doesn't exist. So we have included a six pages long fax from the Estonian Trade Unions, called the Operating Plan of the Association of Estonian Trade Unions.

To summarise, this unique Online Edition of key source documents represents for the first time the complete - at least nearly complete - programmes of democratic socialism and the free trade union movement in Europe. Users world-wide are given direct access to these documents. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year. Documents are planned to be updated every six months.

If you now have any questions or suggestions concerning the non-technical aspects of this project, please feel free to raise them now or to contact me later. Unfortunately, I cannot comment on the technical side of the project, for which two of my colleagues are responsible. Mister Praetzel, scanned in the documents from printed sources, and Ms Großgart, downloaded texts from the Internet. She is also responsible for the overall technical implementation of the project, both have e-mail addresses. (Please contact me if you wish to note them down). Although both my colleagues cannot be here today, I would like to take the opportunity to thank them, since their contribution has been crucial for the successful realisation of this project.

The Internet-address of the edition is:
IALHI Project: Programmatic Documents of The Socialist International and the European Trade Union Confederation
http://www.fes.de/library/ialhi/ial_fram.html

Frank de Jong, IALHI on the Web: IALHInet Serials Service

 

According to the minutes of the 28th Conference, which took place in Silver Spring in 1997, one of the IALHI projects has been iniated by, so far, seven IALHI institutions. They have committed themselves to enter ten periodicals in a shared database, which means to record the table of content and making the articles available to any users. Each of the participating libraries will also be responsible for these particular periodicals to be collected complete, now and in the future. Which may be a reason for the other IALHI institutes to decide to stop collecting those particular periodicals, which is probably a nice opportunity in these days of ever increasing subscription rates and budgetary shortages. For so far the historical background.

At this moment, about two years later, eight members participate at what has become known as IALHI's Serials Service, which is a part of the IALHInet formed by ABA (Copenhagen), AMSAB (Gent), FES (Bonn), BDIC (Nanterre), Feltrinelli (Milan), Schweizeriches Sozialarchiv (Zurich), Tamiment (New York) and IISH (Amsterdam). The IISH maintains the serials service, which means: bringing together all digital tables of content, updating the index, and placing it on the server.

So far, 357 issues of 55 periodicals are available in the serials service, which means, and this is a rough estimate, more than 5000 articles and book reviews (actually I never counted them, I simply assume an average of 15 articles in one issue).

The service can be reached from the IALHI home page, by clicking on the IALHInet button, where you can find information on the aim of IALHInet, the participating institutes, and the special IALHInet projects such as the Serials Service.

When you click on Serials Service, you reach the index of the tables of contents of the alphabetically arranged serials, starting from January 1st, 1997. Here you can select a particular issue of any title, look at the table of contents, and find the serial title, issue number, the name of the institute where the journal is held, all the articles and book reviews, and the date the table was placed on the web. With the "next" and "previous issue" links it is possible to browse through all issues of a title. If a journal has its own place on the Internet, a link is made to its address.

The bit of news at this conference is that you can now search the serials service using a search engine, Webglimpse, which indexes the serials service directory. The power of the software may make our original idea of constructing a database of all individual articles not necessary.

Jack Hofman, Archival Finding Aids: the Experience of the IISH

 

1. Introduction

As some of you may know, we are working on a project to publish the inventories of the IISH on the Internet. I will try to inform you briefly about our plans and will give special attention to our ideas and intentions, the tools we are using and the problems we met on the way.

The project started about two years ago. Its purpose is to make available all the lists and inventories of our archival collections. At the moment they can only be consulted on paper in our reading room. So researchers who come to Amsterdam cannot properly prepare their visit at home. Our first aim was to improve our services in this respect.

In addition, this would give everybody with Internet access the possibility to find our archival collections through the standard search-engines, and even more to search for names or topics in the vast amount of descriptions within all the inventories of the IISH.

It is good to know that we are talking about 2,300 collections, of which some 800 are listed. Part of the lists exist only in hand-writing, but the majority are typed copies (especially in the case of the most important older archives like the papers of Marx and Engels, Kautsky etc.), with or without handwritten corrections. Together, these lists contain about 7,500 pages of text. Furthermore, there is our production of the last ten years done on a wordprocessor (WP 5.1). These c. 550 files measure around 25 Mb, the equivalent of c. 10,000 pages on paper. The lists are mainly in Dutch and English, but also in French, German, and some in Spanish and Russian.

 

2. How to start? Which standards to use?

From the start, it was clear that we had to do more than just typing or re-typing our paper-based inventories, and then converting them into HTML, the language of the Internet.

  • In spite of past efforts to harmonize our work, there are large differences between the lists, partly because of changing practice in the description and presentation over the decades. Should we correct all this and, if so, how? According to which principles?
  • If we would start the job, it would be nice to know that it would still be useful in, say, five years time. Customs and 'hypes' on the Internet change fast, and HTML could be old-fashioned by the time we finished our project.
  • And thirdly another point: We foresee the following problem: If you would search for Kautsky, for instance, through all our brand-new HTML-inventories you will get many hits. The descriptions you will find, might not give you much information about the context of these items. For instance, you might not know to which archive or inventory the description refers. In an inventory on paper this is self-evident. So in all these data we needed a structure that could be easily understood by our users.

So what we needed was a model, a standard. Then we discovered a project of the Research Libraries Group (RLG) which aimed to develop just this standard for publishing inventories on the Internet. RLG is a group of (mostly American) research libraries and institutions of which the IISH became a member in 1996. This group has co-developed the so-called Encoded Archival Description (EAD), a very elaborate model, which allows for the inclusion of all elements one could possibly want to add to an archival description. It is related to, though not identical with, the ISAD-rules of the International Council on Archives (ICA). ISAD stands for International Standard for Archival Description, a set of general rules developed by the ICA and adopted in 1994.

The approach of RLG - the EAD-code - has some considerable advantages:

  • It offers a standard that is widely accepted in an important part of the archival community.
  • It is based on SGML, or Standard Generalized Markup Language, a very stable language already in use for many years by now and defined in an ISO-standard [ISO 8879]. SGML provides a syntax and a framework for defining and expressing the logical structure of documents, and conventions for naming the components or elements of documents. HTML is a sub-set of SGML, just as the latest development, XML. Without becoming too technical, it is perhaps useful to indicate that the EAD-code is a so-called DTD (Document Type Definition) within SGML.
  • RLG has built a very large database, the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN). It is currently linking all EAD-based inventories produced by its members to this database. In this way, our collections would become much better known to the research community that we are trying to serve.

So our mind was quickly made up. We were a member of RLIN, they offered support, and a useful framework. Furthermore, a training was held in London in March 1997. So we got started.

 

3. Were there no disadvantages?

Of course there were disadvantages, as we found out soon enough. The software proved to be pretty complicated, at least to us. Your SGML editor should work, your EAD data type definition should be in place, your viewer should show something, and so on. And of course everything worked only under Windows 95, which we did not use at the time.

The EAD itself code is comprehensive and rather complicated. There are lots of elements that are all related one way or another. A new version was being introduced while we started, and was, unsurprisingly, late in arriving. Moreover, the model is based on American practice, which has a number of peculiarities to European archivists. Its multi-level approach in handling series, subseries and items is better suited for large government archives than for the type of records that we are used to deal with.

Brief, for a considerable time, we just sweated and moaned without making much progress. In the end, we decided to stick with EAD, but we are going to use a limited set of elements - only those that are required or useful to our own practice.

 

4. How to continue?

We have hired a subcontractor specialized in SGML (Alfabase) to support and advise us. Of course, this involves expenses, but we had happened to find funding.

Meanwhile, we published collection-level descriptions of our archival collections on the Web in HTML format. Essentially, these descriptions had already been made available through two printed guides and our online catalogue. These Web pages have fast become popular. They are heavily used and clearly respond to the needs of researchers. To us, this is an excellent incentive to proceed with the original project.

 

5. Where are we now?

The Archival Collections at the International Institute of Social History: this is an index to the archival collections held by the International Institute of Social History. Every entry in the index is linked to a description of the collection in question. Over time, most descriptions will in turn be linked to a more detailed finding aid. In a few cases, we may make the contents of the archive itself available as well (for a small example, see the William Morris Digital Archive). Descriptions of Dutch archives are in Dutch, the other ones in English.

Currently all documents are in HTML format. The Institute is in the process of encoding its archival finding aids in SGML using Encoded Archival Description (EAD) Document Type Definition (DTD). In the near future we hope gradually to add all finding aids in this way. For your convenience, however, they will be available for viewing in both HTML and SGML versions. In order to view SGML documents you will need a special viewer. The free Panorama viewer is not currently available for download (see Interleaf for future availability). Access to the SGML version is therefore temporarily limited to those with SGML viewers already installed on their computers.

More information on the history and development of the EAD DTD is available from the EAD Standards Home Page maintained by the Library of Congress, and the Society of American Archivists' EAD Resouces Site.

[Here Mr Hofman showed a number of files in both HTML and SGML format, on the IISH server and elsewhere.]

 

6. What's next?
  • Conversion of the WP-files.
    At present, Alfabase is working on the conversion of our word-processor files. We hope to be able to release some 500 lists on the Web by the beginning of 2000.
  • After this has been done, we have to make the old lists machine-readable. They will be directly converted to an SGML format. This will be a hell of a job, which we will likely subcontract to another specialized company. It is too early to say when this work will be finished.
  • Last but not least, we will have to reorganize our indexing procedures. It would be silly to go on producing word-processor files that would constitute as many conversion problems. As a result, our archives staff, some 10 people on average, will have to be retrained using EAD and SGML. One possibility is using a word-processor with SGML capabilities, such as WordPerfect 8.0. This would seem to be a relatively user-friendly approach, as it closely resembles current practice. Sometime next year we will make a decision on this.

 

7. Are there conclusions, lessons?

It is too early for us to give you a final conclusion, let alone guidelines about what to do and what to avoid when considering publication of your inventories on the Web. No doubt, in a few years, we can tell you more. But a few observations are still worth making:

  • Try to keep in touch with international developments, and with what's already on the Internet, both in terms of standards and actual examples. Consider subscribing to an EAD discussion list.
  • Keep as many options open for the future as you possibly can.
  • Follow international standards or best practice. Whatever you are going to do, you will find ISAD and EAD extremely useful.
  • Yet don't bother too much about the complexity of software packages, models and codes. Choose the way that suits you best. Publishing your inventories on the Internet just in HTML for instance would already be a big step forward. Our users are asking for it - and will, we hope, be grateful.

Thank you for your attention.

Coen Marinus, Staff Exchange among IALHI Members

 

About 3 years ago, in 1996, the library department of the International Institute of Social History (IISH) started a project of exchanging jobs. Employees 'swapped' jobs for a limited period of time with colleagues from other organizations but with similar specializations.

The exchange was mainly intended for persons who had been working in the same organization for some time, whose jobs had lost their initial excitement and become a routine, and who were looking for a change. The participating organizations felt that a change of environment, working with other people might be refreshing. Learning how other organizations deal with familiar problems might help employees to discover all kinds of new possibilities and thereby broaden their view of their own work. Back home, their new experiences and ideas could result in a fresh approach of their work, to the benefit of themselves and their organizations.

The first exchange was organized in co-operation with a Dutch institution, the University Library of the Free University, Amsterdam. In 1996-1997 two assistant librarians from the Institute and the Free University respectively swapped jobs for 3 months. The participants wrote an enthousiastic report of their experiences.

This year a series of very successful international exchanges was organized between IISH and two other IALHI institutions, the Bibliothek der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Bonn, and the Archief en Museum van de Socialistische Arbeidersbeweging (AMSAB), Ghent. Norbert Wefers (FES) swapped jobs with Arnout Kors (IISH), Luc Lievijns (AMSAB) with Joke Zwaan (IISH), and Wis Geysen (AMSAB) with Frank de Jong (IISH).

So far, the project has proved to be a great success. Of course several practical problems had to be dealt with, such as finding accomodation for the migrating employees and settling differences in working-hours. But solutions were found to the satisfaction of both the participating organizations and employees.

The participants will be happy to share their experiences with others. For more information please contact Coen Marinus, Rüdiger Zimmermann, or Wouter Steenhaut.